Caff Gazetteer #1 - Easter Egg Bonus

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Dom's, Green Lanes, N13

With most classic cafes fading fast, here is a selection of some of the best left standing in London (and further abroad) as of January 2004. Over 130 prime caffs in London alone! Please note that ALL are under direct threat and many may well have vanished by the time you get to them...



North & East London Gazetteer #1


North/Central London

Andrew's, Grays Inn Road WC1. RIP-ish
Slightly off the Little Italy drag, Andrew's is a brilliant local "plain" cafe: fine part-mosaic exterior; solid dun-coloured window frames; generous awnings; worn Formica tables; Thonet chairs; nice hatstands and an intriguing serving hatch. (In September 2004 Andrews's interior was completely altered: though the historic frontage remains intact the ceilings and wall panellings have changed for the worse. Fortunately the original tables and chairs remain.)

City Snacks, Theobalds Road WC1.
The huge outside sign signals a fine local. The small interior is notable for its wall-to-wall Formica.

Conduit Coffee House, Lambs Conduit Street WC1 NEW
Good beige booth seats in a fine little enclave off Holborn. Large back section and good counter and tea machine.

Fryer's Delight, Theobalds Road WC1.
Original old-style chippy with several sit-down Formica (and coloured leatherette) booths. Chips here are still made with beef dripping. A local landmark.

Alfie's, Mount Pleasant WC1. NEW
This hole-in-the-wall caff boasts a tiny counter bar running like a ledge of Formica round the walls, a Belisha beacon of a sign in orange copperplate and a magnificent clock shaped like a cappuccino cup.

Tea Rooms, Museum Street WC1. RIP
Peter Ackroyd's vital London: The Biography reproduces a mournful 1914 painting by William Ratcliffe entitled The Coffee House with the caption: "despite its colourful interiorthe cafe conveys a characteristic melancholy and anonymity." The Tea Rooms miraculously retains all of this flavour.

Zita (Ida's), Shaftesbury Avenue WC2. RIP
Redocorated as of Oct 2004. Just round from the late The Tea Rooms, the Zita preserves a few highlights left over from the Festival of Britain Contemporary look: a nice 1950s exterior sign, glorious orange Formica seats and a suspended ceiling. The waitresses had orange aprons with the cafe logo on it... "The old ladies who ran Zita's have gone back to Italy but their cousin has bought it. I told the friendly young apronless waiter that I hoped he was going to keep the decor the same (especially the booths) but I'm not sure he understood me - he just sort of smiled and nodded. It seems to be called Ida's on the inside but the awning and sign and remain the same." (James)

101 Snack Bar, Charing Cross Road WC2. RIP
Largely ruined internally as of late 2004, though the yellow Formica remains. This little pull-in, almost opposite the Phoenix Theatre, has been a Soho staple for decades. The intensely coloured yellow and black laminate interior stands out like a beacon. The faded and broken outside sign is a classic. Now "pretty well finished as a classic cafe, as the original shop sign, glass display, customer counter, and stool-seating has all been removed. The yellow Formica walls are partially obscured by a drinks fridge." (Patrick Turland)

Il Buffone, Drury Lane WC2. RIP
Excellent double frontage to the street consisting of classic grey patterned mosaic tiles, smart red awnings with the caff's Italian clown logo and inside five rangy booths and walls covered with old-timer photos.

Pollo, Old Compton Street W1. RIP
The lovely red and black seats, beanpole rails and hanging signs recreate something of the look and atmosphere of the original Soho coffee bars. (The area is going to be 'developed' to make away for a block of apartment-hotels, apparently on the basis that they will deter undesirables.)

Centrale, Moor Street W1. RIP
Tiny but with a good big window frontage and battered old brown vinyl seats. Functional and lovely, this is where Malcolm McClaren used to dragoon his 1980s band, Burundi pirateers, Bow Wow Wow. Unchanged for fifty years. (Sign altered Aug 2004) (The area is going to be 'developed' to make away for a block of apartment-hotels, apparently on the basis that they will deter undesirables.) "Centrale is closing on 29th December 2004, the cafe is re-opening in Archer St., off Shaftsbury Avenue. The properties on that side of Moor Street (excluding Ed's Easy Diner and the pub) are being demolished, as are some of the properties at the rear in Old Compton St...18th century buildings that should have been listed." (Patrick Turland)

Amalfi, Old Compton Street W1. RIP
Pleasantly renovated restaurant with a large basement. The adjoining coffee bar is ruined but the main room has kept its great murals, lamps, Sorrentine tile-work and a beautiful blue ceiling sculpture.

Cappuccetto, Moor Street W1. RIP
Small patisserie with part-panelled interior serving own-brand cappuccinos and cakes. The owner, Alberto, claims to have introduced pesto to Britain in 1962 and the powdering of cappuccinos with cocoa. (The area is going to be 'developed' to make away for a block of apartment-hotels, apparently on the basis that they will deter undesirables.)

The Stockpot, Old Compton St W1. NEW
'Has a late 60's/early 70's pinewood feel.' (Patrick Turland)

Trattoria Aldo, Greek Street W1. RIP
Lost trattoria with rows of cute booths strung round with cod-Italiana.

Jimmy's, Frith Street W1 NEW
Time warp restaurant has now been going for well over fifty years, in a small basement on Frith Street. Says John Whiting, a US food writer domiciled in London: 'And there, off to one side on Frith Street, was
Jimmy's. The last time I was in Jimmy's was in 1955. I was in the US Army stationed near Rushden - the end of the Birch Bus line - and my weekends were regularly spent in London, attempting to stretch my army pittance to infinity. Jimmy's was about the cheapest place to eat (a rough equivalent to Galotte's in Paris)... When I was down to my last couple of shillings I could always go there and fill up on something substantial. I stopped to look at the menu. Half a century ago Jimmy's was across the street, but it's still down an unprepossessing flight of basement stairs. Back in those days the few Greek dishes were scattered through a list of the standard English fare demanded by labourers and cabbies, but that portion of their clientele has long departed, so Greek Cypriot now reigns supreme. Would it be edible? What the hell, today's Nostalgia Day - go for it! Downstairs was a much more respectable establishment than the one I used to frequent. Not only were there white tablecloths; they are clean. But the décor must date from closer to its origins than to the present day ­ rough white plaster, a primitive painted mural, ancient furniture and a wall space in a corner covered with cards (already showing three years yellowing) to congratulate them on their fiftieth birthday. At two-thirty in the afternoon there were fewer than a dozen people in the restaurant, most of them as superannuated as your reporter, and all of them speaking Greek. A couple of diners got up from a table and went behind the bar, where they resumed their real identities.... From the well-worn menu (unchanged since the 60s, said a tattered newspaper clipping on the wall) I selected a starter of little Greek Cypriot meat balls and a main course of stifado - meltingly delicious when it's properly prepared, coarse and stringy when it's not. The meat balls were crisp on the outside, with moist and herby interiors. The stifado, an enormous pile, I could easily have cut with a spoon - moist, springy, redolent of long marinating and slow cooking in strong red wine. It was accompanied by dark brown crisply fried potatoes, roughly cut in irregular chunks and loaded with deliciously wicked calories... An attractive young woman swept through the door and across the room to an old man who'd apparently been waiting for her. "I'm so sorry I'm late," she apologised effusively. It was the first English I'd heard. His granddaughter, probably. This is the sort of place where, if you see a pretty girl with a man old enough to be her father - he is... It was a comfortable place to sit and read, the Greek music at a low level a welcome respite from the aggressive din of central London'". (Earl of Bradford's Restaurant Guide)

Valtaro, Kingly Street W1. RIP Feb 05
Unremarkable interior but the brown leatherette bench seats (and a convenient Soho location) mean it's worth a punt. The wall menu and paintings on the back wall add much needed atmosphere. Service is spectacularly rancid.

Sidoli's Buttery (now Lino's) Store StreetAlfred Place WC1E. RIP
Good seating and a pleasing ambience well away from the crushing boredom of the Tottenham Court Road furniture shops. The Sidoli family used to run chains of cafes throughout Britain.

Bar Central, Bernard Street WC1. NEW
Almost next to Russell Square tube, this caff is joined on to a pleasant old trattoria. The nice suspended moderne ceiling is reminiscent of Morelli's in Broadstairs. Half a dozen rangy leatherette booths make up the seating along the walls.

Maison Bertaux, Greek Street W1.
130 year old patisserie cum cafe with a rickety upstairs room that looks like an old dairy annex: wood seats and tables and a delightful selection of cakes and pastries. Unpretentious and authentic little patisserie sited between a strip club and an old pub. A simple interior and rudimentary Lincrusta-lined decor lends it a traditional French charm and paysan appeal. The window is impeccably adorned with glorious freshly made gateaux, flans, patisseries and delicate confiseries. It has the appearance of a totally authentic French patisserie and there is certainly nothing false about the freshly made cream cakes or the rather eccentric and incredibly camp staff. "I like Maison Bertaux because it's not a chain, and it's nice and scruffy. You need a degree of grubbiness in a good cafe. I go to places like this when I haven't had breakfast, I've forgotten lunch, it's nearly dinnertime and I am about to fall over because my blood sugar is down to my knees. Whenever there has been some kind of temperance movement, there's been tearooms. Kate Cranston had the Willow Tea Rooms, which were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but that scene died out... This is a proper old-fashioned cafe... I used to hang out with loads of people who didn't have jobs, so we nursed the routine." (A L Kennedy, Observer, March 13 2005)

Blandfords, Chiltern Street, W1 NEW
Just of the Marylebone drag - the exterior's recently been altered but the inside is pure plain-style perfection: dead and loving it! Apparently a favourite of Ray Davies.

Bar Italia, Frith Street W1.
Founded in the late 1940s, the neon entrance sign and hanging clock front an interior with stools running down a long counter space laminated in two-tone Formica.

Lorelei, Bateman Street W1.
Slapbang in the centre of Soho, the Italian flag exterior and the lovely old sign are all absolutely untouched. The interior resembles a miniature village hall circa 1958: linoleum floor, square Formica tables, shabby posters, tiny serving area, creaky wooden chairs. "Con la Cimbali... un Cimbalino!" So reads the message on the front of the coffee machine in this great 1950s café/restaurant. Like everything else in the place the coffee machine has been here for over 40 years. The espresso it produces is consistently the best I've tasted in London. On top of which it is probably also the cheapest you'll find - certainly in Central London. Lorelei has a great atmosphere: it is small, dark and dingy; with the one window onto the street being full of pot plants to obscure nosy glances from passers-by. One wall is actually a great large painting of a mermaid, whilst the outside of the place is painted in green, white and red like an Italian flag. Even visiting the toilet here is an experience unto itself - they are housed in the back yard! And you'll notice that even the plumbing seems to be original" (Paul Secular,

Bruno Snack Bar, Wardour Street W1.
A little slice of ye authentic Soho of olde which, along with the Lorelei, has eluded the developers. Chalet-style pew booths in cheery green leatherette sit under massive wall menus offering dozens of Italian sandwich combinations.

Marylebone Cafe, Thayer Street W1.
Plain-style caff on the verges of Oxford Street. Good exterior mosaic tile patterning and a big bold nameplate. Decent booth interior. "This cafe holds many memories for me as my parents John and Alma Negri were proprietors for many years from the late 50s to the late 60s. My paternal grandparents ran it before that. I remember seeing my auntie Brenda on the evening TV news in 1963, crossing Wigmore Street, with a tray of tea and biscuits: they were for Christine Keeler and John Profumo when they had just been arrested. The old phone (it needed four old pennies with buttons A and B to press) was in a corner at the top of the cellar stairs, and was where the local junkies would slip into to have a fix. We also had the Restaurant next door (is it a travel agents now?) We only opened at lunchtimes and it was run by my dad's twin sisters, Anna and Maria. I think they were as big a draw as the steak and kidney puddings." (Peter Negri/Tea & A Think)

Paul Rothe, Marylebone Lane W1. NEW
Untouched deli and old-fashioned provisions shop dating from early twentieth century with unique fold-up white leatherette seating area. Renowned for its liptauer sandwiches.

John's Sandwich Bar, Mortimer Street W1. RIP
Initially this seems like just another crap Soho-fringes sandwich bar but look in closer - the menu looks good, the sign is inviting and there's a cluster of frayed booth seats at the back. Hoorah! Inside we find an unusual dark patterned counter, odd hessian wall coverings, top service in crypto Italiano/cod-Spanish, interesting false ceiling units and - for the caff anoraks - the very same elegant patterned cup n' saucer sets as the mighty Alpino, except in light green rather than dark plum. A welcome space in this welcome little area away from the main tourist drag. "John's has been here as long as I can remember. It has seen off many a pretender on the corner of Mortimer Street. Obviously the two helpers (John is the amiable plump looking fella) weren't up to their womanzing ways when you were in there. If only I had their chat up lines. 'Whatta you wan' blondie', is one of their many gems. They also say comic things like (and I've heard this in many Italian cafes) '£5 cash for the full English'. It's bloody marvellous they have stayed the course as nearby Charlotte Street is full of wanky Starbucks and Soup Kitchens frequented by twat media types gabbing into their Nokios. You do really use the will to live when you see what they are doing to a marvellous place like Fitzrovia. The late Julian Macclaren-Ross would be spiralling down to the Antipodies if he knew." Flood damaged Mar 2010. (David Fogarty)

Maria's, Grafton Way W1. RIP
A sumptuous orange and yellow vitrolite exterior with deco metal trimming. Despite the small interior, there are two good gingham covered tables with excellent minimalist 1960s leatherette n' metal chairs. A chalet-style beamed ceiling and trusty Helvetica awning completes the package.

Sandwich Bar, Brooks Mews W1. RIP
A hidden gem, utterly overlooked in a lost mews surrounded by galleries and serviced apartments (and one of the only surviving London cafes originally listed in Jonathan Routh's The Good Cuppa Guide of 1966). A model of British utility.

The Chalet, Grosvenor Street W1.
This compact little place (with two hidden rear sections) is kitted out in 1960s Swiss-style very much like the Lucky Spot (in North Audley Street) and Scoffs (on Kensington High Street). This look was once all the rage, as Alpine-exotica briefly irrupted throughout Europe.

Rendez-Vous, Maddox Street W1. RIP Mar 2004
Espresso Bongo-like sign outside and a domestic living room interior featuring a bay-fronted window, covered tables, excellent wooden chairs, hanging lamps, counters and lashings of warm Formica on the walls.

The Lucky Spot, North Audley Street W1.
An oddly grand stone exterior fronts this crypto-Swiss interior featuring carved high-backed pews and lots of dark panelling. The owner reckons the design is Elizabethan pastiche.

The Bonbonniere Restaurant, Woodstock Street W1. RIP
Exceedingly central (just opposite Debenhams) this has a somewhat offputting neon sign but the interior has the feel of some sort of large Sorrentine ice-cream parlour with a big tiled sea-faring mural at the very back of a sizeable floorspace. More of a restaurant than cafe, it's really the spaciousness and seried ranks of nut brown tables and chairs (and pretty wall lamps) which make the Bonbonniere such a comfort zone. There's a touch of the curtain-twitchers about this one which we like, but a draconian 'minimum charge' policy and punitive 'no cheques or credit card payments under £10' rule puts it beyond the true caff pale. A pity - this place has real potential and a sense of history. A pleasing sister eaterie used to exist many years ago in Carnaby Street, but has since been brutally Starbucked... "As of March - May 2005 there's a sign in the window saying closed for refurbishment. One of the waiters told me last year that the owner had freeholds of about 19 Italian cafes and restaurants in Central London. It always had an aura of the slightly faded elegance of yesteryear. The toothbrush vending machine (removed in July 2004) was a thoughtful touch!" (Patrick Turland)

Stanley's, Little Portland Street W1. RIP Sep 04
The LA-lounge-cum-motorway-caff design was overseen by Quentin Reynolds. Frank Lloyd Wright relief walls in grey, dazzling scarlet banquettesand a big municipal clock over the stairwell.

The New Piccadilly, Denman Street W1. RIP
A cathedral amongst caffs run by the irrepressible Lorenzo and his crack team of uniformed waiters. This is the last of the big hitters left in Soho and one of the largest original cafes left in Britain: pink Formica coffee machine, big plastic horseshoe shaped menu, wall-to-wall lemon Formica surfaces and lots and lots of brilliant booth seating. Even the New Piccadilly menu is a collectors-item design classic. Truly, a place of reverence.

Euro Snack Bar, Swallow Street W1. RIP Jun 04
Tucked off the tourist trail, subsisting on a seemingly need-to-know basis among a brace of lapdancing clubs, this smart little Snack Bar sports a superb orange and green frontage with 1960s typography. Inside-small, comfortable booths; low ceilings and odd little mini-counters holding the drab green salt n' pepper sets.

Bloomsbury Restaurant, Brunswick Centre WC1. RIP May 5 05
Set in a vast brutalist housing estate amongst a cluster of windswept concourses, boarded up shops, walk-in centresand art cinemas, the Bloomsbury's fake brick wallpaper is repellent but the green booth seating is cheerfully redolent of some long lost motorway caff circa 1968. "This closed at 4pm on Saturday. I was their last customer. I'd just been there the previous week after reading your feature and was looking forward to my second shish & shake of many (being about the only decent place for food round Holborn when I have to work Sundays) but it was not to be. The lovely Turkish owner/waitress was crying her eyes out; it was so sad, and a stream of regulars and neighbours were coming in to wish them well." (James Watthey)

Chandos Sandwich Bar, Chandos Place WC2. RIP-ish
A fine red sign and Wimpy-style interior with solid booths and a great range of single chrome and green leatherette stools ranged along the back eating bar.

Porky's Pantry, Chandos Place WC2.
Pleasant enough little 'plain style' joint. Covered in show posters: 'a 60's/early 70's sign, leatherette booth seating, Formica tables, wooden-slatted ceiling, and ( if memory serves) an original hot-water dispenser. The fine display of plastic and china pigs may be a none too subtle dig at the nearby Charing Cross police station.' (Patrick Turland)

Frank's, Neal Street, WC2. NEW
Semi-classic only: "been here since about 1966, when the area was still dominated by the fruit and veg market. The cafe was the subject of an Evening Standard article a few years ago, when the owner was served with an extortionate rent-review notice. Thankfully, he managed to ride the storm. The classical, Graeco-Romano pictures and Amalfi wall-murals are certainly pleasing to the eye!" (Patrick Turland)

Orsini (formerly Regent Cafe ), Whitcomb Street WC2. NEW
Hidden off the main tourist drag of Trafalgar Square, this half-decent little plain cafe has some pensive and withdrawn brown booths at the back. Nice hanging sign outside too... 'refurbished by new owners August 2004. New booths have been installed, with a wood-laminate top tables, and brown leatherette seats... a sympathetic refit. It's now called Orsini.' (Patrick Turland)

The Express, Shepherd Street W1.
The only authentic part-classic cafe left in Mayfair. Great frontage with a small, Formica table interior. A nice touch: the "model for hire" red-light perched in the window of the flat above; a throwback to the friendly old Mayfair of yore! Heritage Britain at its best... 'refurbished by its new owners (Sep 2004) it's now called The Old Express but the refit could have been a hell of a lot worse. There's a wood-floor, dark wood wall-panelling, varnished wood tables with Thonet-style wooden chairs. At the moment it's only open from about 7.30am to 11.30am. The previous builder clientele have been deterred by the new refit.' (Patrick Turland)

Golden Hind, Marylebone Lane W1.
Open for nearly forty five years and owned by the Schiavetta family, this Art Deco chippie with classic cafe chairs and tables-and staggered opening hours-has become monstrously popular.

Fish Bar & Kebab House, Whitfield Street W1. RIP
The main front-section is a standard fish bar, but tucked round the side is a bolt-on mini-restaurant that looks pretty well untouched since 1953. Features include: square, solid, metal and drab-green leatherette chairs; ranks of tables; polished vinyl-wood walls; scallop shell ceilings; period clocks; random wall plates.

Parma, Seymour Place (Marble Arch end) W1. RIP
The main window bay appears to date from the 1900s and is completely unchanged from the days when it was probably an Edwardian shopfront. The original 50s cafe signs in the panes remain intact - a real rarity for this part of town. The sills are full of choking old plants above which hang three large beguiling chalet lamps. As if this wasn't enough the doorway is of original mid-century design with a fine circular handle and a cheery coloured 'Open' sign quite unmatched anywhere else in central London! Hooray. The interior is all dark steamy oppressive fake wood. A very good selection of Formica tables but, unfortunately, no matching seating - on this occasion we'll let this pass as the Parma's compensating charms are overwhelming. We particulary like the grand tea-boiler fronted by a small breakfast bar with two swivel stools. And best of all, the Parma is tucked into a pretty London street-that-time-forgot. Well worth a long, drawn out visit with a follow-on trip to the nearby...

Buscot Dairy, Molyneux Street W1. NEW
Beautifully sited in the base of a lovely mansion block in a truly forgotten area of the West End north of Oxford St, this place retains four good caramel booths, old wall heaters and some original signage in the windows. The entire frontage looks very 1940s and the cafe seems to be attached to an incredibly narrow - only 6ft wide - block of flats. Obviously once a local dairy, there's no other exterior quite like it in London. A real find.

Sergios, Eagle Place SW1. NEW
Useful little cafe off Piccadilly. Good sign and a few booths. Worth a look. But eclipsed by the glories of The Euro Snack Bar nearby.

S & M Cafe (formerly Alfredo's) Essex Road N1.
Owned by the DeRitis family for some eighty years, the deco styling dates from 1947 and the lovely chrome exterior doorways, tiling and vitrolite interior are listed. (The upper apartments are protected as an eighteenth century terrace.) Lashings of blue Formica and polished surfaces throughout. Lovingly restored in 2002.

Alpino, Chapel Market N1. (Under threat Mar 2008) RIP
Only the stylish serif typeface of the sign above the door indicates anything special from the outside. Inside, however, this is a wonderland of fine top-of-the-range period tables and luxury booth seating. The Alpino's plum-patterned cup and saucer sets are ceramic perfection.

Cross Cafe, Cross Street N1. RIP
'A semi-classic hold-out in gentrified Islington... traditional glass counter display; original hot-water spout; Formica-topped wooden tables on metal pedestals, wooden chairs with leatherette seating and backing. The large, wall-mounted wooden spoons and forks are a nice touch. However, the wall and floor-tiling looks more recent, possibly late 70s-early 80s... it's now a Kurdish cafe-bistro called Nan, that also serves burgers and all day full-English breakfasts' (Patrick Turland)

Sorrento Snack Bar, Woburn Walk WC1.
Hidden in a lovely enclave of late Georgian bay-fronted shops near Euston, this place features good booth-style wooden seats and murky-green wall tiling. A neat row of leatherette and steel upright stools runs along a breakfast bar style counter. (Surrounded by great little specialist second-hand bookshops.)

Valtaro Snack Bar, Marchmont Street (near Cartwright St) WC1. NEW
'Italian-owned small cafe with Formica counter with shelf section, stools with leatherette covering. (Possibly vitrolite ceiling panels in white, maroon and yellow.) Drinks menu in caff plastic lettering. Possibly open from 6am to 9pm, 7 days a week. Handy for the nearby Judd Two bookshop.' (Patrick Turland)

The New Goodfare, Parkway NW1. RIP
Super old-style Italian restaurant/cafe. Genuine Helvetica caff sign but not really a looker from the outside. Good tables and chairs within however, and a huge back wall mural. (Worth noting the fine scallop door handle on the main entrance.) Open seven days a week. "A fine interior. The impressive giant Tintoretto/Canaletto mural on the back wall is somewhat vitiated by other racing car and Malboro posters. Good basic cheese and tomatoe on French stick - though the pre-sliced cheese evidently dated from sometime before 1970. The guv'nor also has a great syrup: inky-blue with a hint of candy-floss comb-over." (Mark Gould)

Alison's Snack Bar, 78 Eversholt St, NW1 RIP
The vandalised Catholic church on Eversholt St. has a notice on the door saying: 'Access available through Alison's Snack Bar'. I don't know whether you get the key there, or nip out the back and climb over the dustbins to find the church's back door but the caff is set back, and has two tables in the yard. Through the rickety door and up the stairs is a room with four Formica tables and ancient loose chairs. The small kitchen area - complete with tiled roof - is presided over by a very friendly, middle-aged Irish bloke. The menu features sandwiches, fry-ups, roast meats, plus lots of vegetarian dishes. Roast pork and three veg came to £4.45 with home-made apple pie and custard at £1.85 and a mug of paintstripper tea only 45p. Very good food, and attentive service. Highly recommended. (Their leaflet features an advert on the back for Shamrock Catering Services.)" (Robert Wyburn)

Continental Cafe, Highgate Road NW5. RIP
This dark, dank, dusty old caff is unchanged in decades-a feast of raw chipped Formica and buckled laminate sitting disconsolately in the base of a mysterious bright red building almost opposite The Forum club.

Mario's, Kelly Street, NW1. NEW
Semi-classic. Refitted with a consequent diminution in ambience, but included here for historical reasons (
St Etienne's hymn to Mario's appears on the So Tough album.) "Mario's father, Antonio Saggese, and grandfather Mariano Saggese opened Mario's Cafe in 1957 as Tony's Restaurant. They came with the wave of immigrants after the Second World War from a small fishing village of Cunano Verano just outside Foggia in southern Italy. The site was previously a butcher's lock up and was soon converted into a local bustling coffee house, frequented by students from the North London Polytechnic... They were the only workers cafes to have a proper cappuccino machine in the surrounding area." Check out the CD compilation Saint Etienne Presents Songs for Mario's Café.

Costella Cafe (formerly Mario & Mike's), Boscobel Street, NW8 NEW
Just off the Edgware Road (close to the sites of the extinct Regency Milk Bar and recently refurbished Metropolitan) the Costella's uPVC door, marble-effect floor-tiles and tables indicate more recent styling. However, the classic-cafe purist will be uplifted by the battered external Coca-Cola sign, old and new Thonet chairs, and utilitarian, Formica wood-effect wall panelling. An original hot-water spout, old-style cash register, historic wall-clock and coat-hooks all add to the cheer. The kitchen area's seen better days, but unabashed Italian-pride is demonstrated by the usual trinity of national flag, map and football-poster. It may have been the Easter Saturday lack of custom, but the affable owner seemed happy to chat about the Edgware Road of yesteryear, when Italian-owned cafes were the norm...' (Patrick Turland)

San Siro, Highgate West Hill N6. RIP
Good, old and rundown with great tables and chairs and suspended ceiling detail. In terminal decline for decades but still up and at it in the ambience stakes... 'the owners have put in new fake-marble top tables and new metal frame chairs. There has been some partial exposure of the brickwork...everything else remains the same.' (Patrick Turland)

Coffee Cup, Hampstead High Street NW3.
Venerable institution which somehow retains the feel of an original seventeenth century coffee house: red-and-white stripped wooden canopy over the front; gothic logo over the entrance; dark, cosy panelling; tasselled ironwork chalet lamps on the walls; crumbling vine-patterned cornices; a mediaeval-looking carved door; mosaic steps; low pews, banquettes and red velvet stools everywhere. A fine companion piece to The Troubadour in Earls Court.

Louis Patisserie, Heath Street NW3. NEW
"Just round the corner from The Coffee Cup... Hungarian patisserie, established around 1962 providing a substitute mittel-European ambience for those still mourning the loss of Swiss Cottage's Cosmo (closed in the late 90s). Nice caramel leatherette banquettes, Thonet-esque wooden chairs, wood-panelling and attractive wall-mounted lights. Waitresses will bring a tray of cakes to your table. Watch 'The Third Man' after a visit for maximum effect." (Patrick Turland)

Rosemont Cafe, Rosemont Rd NW3. NEW
"Alive and well and has apparently been here for 66 years! Typical menu, Formica tables, value for money... a little find.The lady who served us said she's been there for 30 years. £3.60 for full English." (Andre Millodot) ... "Fits the classic definition to a tee. It's run by an immigrant couple. Young waitresses move on and are replaced every couple of months. The food is the type that your old hard working grandma used to boil up.  The prices are fair and the service is scarily quick; I go in there of a lunchtime partly to read, but barely have I sat down and opened my book when a plate of lasagne and chips lands piping hot in front of me. Full range of customers from bus drivers to office workers, pensioners to mothers." (Paul Shevlane)

John's, Chalk Farm Road NW1. RIP
Great plum and cream interior with fluted panelling on the lower walls and fine chairs. Brusque service a speciality.

Highbury Cafe, Holloway Road N7. MIA?
A good selection of solid wooden tables and chairs, featuring worn tartan patterning, plus a back section with six booths and powder blue Formica panels. On the wall is one of their old menus from the 1950s. (Also worth a visit nearby, The Trevi Italian restaurant by The Garage music venue-a mini-lounge with booth seating throughout.)

Starburger, Holloway Road (near Loraine Road) N7. NEW
'Looks like a former Wimpy with green leatherette seats, apparently original wall-mounted lights and Formica wall-panelling at the rear. Similar to the Star Cafe in Whitechapel Road and Bloomsbury Restaurant in the Brunswick Centre.' (Patrick Turland)

Hope Workers Cafe, Highbury Corner N5. RIP
For the brilliant array of polished wood chairs and tables alone this is worth a punt. Pity about the wretched metal doors and window surrounds though.

Panda Restaurant, Holloway Road N7.
With a lovely old sign above the door and a fusty interior left just as nature intended, this is net-curtained, faded English gentility at its finest... 'probably one of my most depressing eating experiences ever. It was so bad, it was actually almost enjoyable, in a "that which does not kill me, strengthens me" way.' (Patrick Turland)

De Marco, Junction Road N19. RIP
'An italian enclave just over the road from Archway station, on an interesting wedge-shaped plot uniformly fitted out in lovely formica, with a fast turnover of wisecracking and/or demented clientele, and run by a prizewinning ice-cream dynasty... The current proprietor is a third-generation member of the same extended family who have been running the establishment since it opened over 60 years ago. Business is "up and down" these days ­ their biggest selling-point used to be their ice-cream, which is still home-made today (and delicious, I might add). The ice-cream isn't so much in demand these days (although there is still a serving window onto the street, adorned with the poignant notice Would you like any "Desserts"). But they still proudly display on the walls a certificate from the Ice Cream Alliance for the Diploma of Merit won in 1957, along with photographs of the trophy and of the winning entry alongside the circular mirrors that adorn the interior. I am told, proudly (and reassuringly) that despite the newcomer caffs springing up all around, they have no plans to 'renovate': "We try to keep it just as it was ­ just add a few things, a new sign maybe...". The whole caff is beautifully decked out in twotone floral-pattern formica, a light colour below, a rich orange on the upper walls. A gigantic illuminated yellow menu covers a whole wall. Pay them a visit, soak up the ambiance, support this living classic, and don't forget to ask for ice cream.' (Undercurrent)

Rheidol Rooms, St Peters Street N1.
Good plain cafe filled with fine yellow Formica furnishings throughout.

Paul's, Southgate Road N1. RIP
Perfect little plain-style caff with a vaguely 40s style counter and an enduring air of emptiness.

The Italian Restaurant, Rochester Row SW1. RIP
A truly great local in a brilliant little enclave dating from 1936. The impressive beige curvilinear counter is the centrepiece. Classic monochrome Formica covers all the walls and there's an authentic parlour-like section through a back arch. Smashing hand-painted sign outside too. A delight.

New Grosvenor Cafe, Horseferry Road SW1.
A few doors up from the now ruined Fiesta cafe, this has a brilliant exterior sign in Gill typeface with some surviving red leatherette seating.

Tony's Cafe, Chapter Street SW1.
Neat local in Victoria off Vauxhall Bridge Road. Good booths and interior lighting. Simple but effective.

Wilton, Wilton Road SW1. RIP
Splendid "plain" cafe in the heart of Victoria: top sign, powder blue marbleised flooring, neat rosewood and black leatherette booths. Very cramped.

Regency Cafe, Page Street SW1.
Imposing black tile deco exterior with lovely Gill typeface logo built into the base of a 1930s block of mansion flats. Walls and ceilings are good but all the original tables and seating have been removed. Often used for film shoots.

Astral Cafe, 8 Regency Place (off Horseferry Road), London SW1. NEW
"has had some work done on it over the years but there is still the original wall panels/shelves and in the back some of the Formica is left behind... good breakfasts and lunches, many have commented on its '50s feel." (Walter)

Tevere, Great Peter Street SW1P. RIP
An upmarket chalet-style cafe at the junction of Marsham Street and Great Peter Street in the Westminster Village. Tevere is milk chocolate brown inside ­ all dark dark wood panels and grey net curtains. The waitresses are black-clad Roman ladies, smothered in creamy make-up and always just slightly on the side of being annoyed at your very existence. The clientele are lovelorn House of Commons researchers (sharing a carafe of house white and sobbing over their MP's infidelities), grumbling hacks and passed-over civil servants in shiny Burton's suits gossiping and grinding their teeth. You can easily imagine Ted Heath gliding by in his ministerial Rover or Enoch Powell sitting at a table in a three piece suit with double-breasted waistcoat pounding out 'Tiber foaming with blood' speeches (Tevere is Italian for 'Tiber'). All in all, a moribund masterpiece.

Cafe, Vauxhall Bridge Road (near Causton Street) SW1. RIP
"Plain-style cafe with Formica-topped counter & aluminium detailing, glass display cabinet, wooden benches and some Formica-topped tables. Authentic food and clientele." (Patrick Turland) ... "Worth a look if visiting Tony's in Chapter Street. This cafe appears to have no name... recognisable by its yellow canopy. Inside is a gloomy, tiny space: ancient, creaking wooden benches and worn grey Formica topped tables are complemented by a 50s vintage journeyman counter with a glass cabinet complete with suitably old-fashioned looking buns and cakes. The menu is limited. A half-arsed attempt at sprucing the place up appears to have taken place sometime in the 80s. However, as the furniture was retained this is hardly noticeable. Moreover, the patina of dirt which appears to cover everything also reduces the impact of these minor cosmetic changes. Highlights are the classic Pyrex 50s coffee cups and saucers (which you probably won't get unless you're a regular.) The folded paper napkins, and the pyramid display of orange and apple juice cartons. With only about eight small booths, time your visit wisely to get a good spot - it gets busy from abut 12.15 onwards. Not open weekends or evenings." (Ian Turnbull)

Dom's, Green Lanes N13 ( south of Palmers Green) NEW
Lovely lettering on the exterior and an interior still packing plenty of classic punch: leather banquettes, Formica tables, lime green 'target' clock above the counter, small cylindrical lights hung from the ceiling, mugs which tapered down to a base shaped like a screw-in lightbulb Too many Pre-Raphealite prints rather the spoil the effect, but at least there's still a bit of 1960s style in there. Staff are friendly and the tea is strong. Lovely. (The nexus of shops around Dom's have a great air of Morinbundia to them. None better than the Christening/Wedding Outifitters called 'Lollipops'. (Ross McFarlane)

London Cafe, Turnpike Lane N15. NEW
'a great place to hang out for an hour or so. Located next to the tube station, the building is a gem of 1930s architecture. The clientele mainly consists of men, students, and couples. A selection of broadsheet & tabloid newspapers are available to read. With all selections the quality of the grease is guaranteed.' (

Double Six, Eversholt Street NW1. NEW
'Has a cosy snug bit at the back. Conspiratorial atmosphere, popular with cabbies.' (

Sunsnacks Cafe, Lisson Grove NW1 NEW
Top find almost opposite the dole office where, legend has it, Joe Strummer was first approached by Mick Jones and Paul Simenon to form The Clash (see also Metropolitan Cafe just down the road). Fine wooden-backed booths with proper leatherette.

Tonibell Snack Bar/Ice Cream Bar, 35 Shenley Road, Borehamwood WD6. NEW
Mr Seb Brennan writes: "It's about 100 yds from Elstree and Borehamwood station and is a cracker. All that's left of their 1950s cornet-based empire is this double fronted cafe on Shenley Road: nice facia, leatherette banquettes. Maybe when it gets knocked down to make way for a Chicken Cottage the nice people at BBC Elstree can cart the remains round the corner and re-erect it in Walford." Tonibell was started in 1937 by Italian-born Toni Pignatelli and his Scottish wife. Known as Tonis, it consisted of a small ice-cream manufacturing plant in a shop in High Street, Burnt Oak, Middlesex. The products were sold to the public from the shop window. Twelve years later the couple's son Ronald, who had changed his name to Peters, joined the business. The name Tonis was changed to Tonibell in 1960 because competitors began using Tonis name and colours. All vehicles were painted blue, and Tonibell's cow symbol made its debut with a new jingle that was specially written for the chimes. In 1969, when Lyons bought the company, Tonibell had eighteen depots and four franchise depots covering the whole country. The business was, essentially a franchise operation and 500 vans were involved in taking ice-cream to housing estates and other high density areas. In addition they had 15 ice-cream parlours, mainly in the London area, and again operated under franchise arrangements.

Frank's, Uxbridge Metropolitan Line tube station RIP
'Frank's has been owned for almost 40 years by Frank and Ganni Costa. Refurbished in the 60s, it looks its best in the early morning, as sunlight filters in through the high windows, illuminating the rising cigarette smoke. The cafe retains its ranks of Formica tables and red leatherette chairs but resist the temptation to follow the smoke up to the refurbished ceiling - the cafe's principal architectural abomination. Frank's offers both authentic workman's cafe food as well as some more distinctively Italian items and, overall, represents a refreshing
antidote to the town's otherwise soulless, aspirational makeover.' (Jonathan Hourigan)

Bar Linda, Golders Green station NW11. NEW
"a bright, busy mod/espresso type of place, watch the Routemasters chugging off up west from canary yellow Formica counter..." (Antony Turton)

Dug Out, St. Albans Lane NW11. NEW
One of the most hidden away obscure cafes in London. Still with some original fittings, and plenty of grimy atmosphere... "The Dugout Cafe in Golders Green is the only cafe of the three main North London rocker's cafes that has remained in constant use from the heyday of the late fifties / early sixties. (The other two were the Busy Bee on the Watford bypass and The Ace on the North Circular road). The Ace was re-opened as a cafe about four years ago after being used as a tyre fitters since it's original closure in 1969. Unfortunately the refitting as a cafe has not been in keeping with it's original decor. I am too young to have been riding motorcycles back in the sixties, but I did go to the Dugout a few times when I was working in the area. So I arranged a run out from the Ace with a few friends - two of whom used to go there back in the day. It was a nice day and our noisy old British bikes caused a bit of stir when we arrived. The cafe, as it name suggests is situated in a basement and has no "shopfront" as such. I spoke to the present owner who bought it from the bloke that had owned it for 35 years. He new of its history as a biker's cafe and is interested in promoting that side of it. The two "originals" Dave Johnson and Colin Cooke reminisced about the old days. Colin said that you were lucky to get a seat in the place as it was so busy . He went on to say that they used to end up moving from cafe to cafe to try and beat the crowd. He said another cafe they used was Salami's by Brondesbury Station on the Kilburn High Road [I used this cafe often when it was known as The Venus - it was open most of the night]. Dave said that when Coca Cola bottles went up to one shilling he bought a round for everyone - twenty bottles for one pound !! The owner made him pay up front as he didn't believe that he had the money.Dave and Colin remembered that there was a juke box in the right hand corner of the place and that their mate Pete put his head through the ceiling while doing some over energetic dancing. The owner told us that he has a few celebrity customers naming Bert Kwok in particular (he of the Kung Fu in The Pink Panther). The unfortunate thing about the Dugout is that it doesn't really have any of it's original fixtures and fittings left. It never was a Formica or Vitrolite palace, but from what I could gather from talking to Colin, Dave and two other longstanding customers it used to have trellis work on the walls with wine battles etc. hanging on it [though this may have been in the 70's] and benches with trestle tables that could be moved over when the place got lively. It used to stay open until midnight." (Phil Whyte)


East London

E Pellicci, Bethnal Green Road E2.
Owner Nevio was born above the shop and Pellicci's has now been serving up top nosh for over 100 years. The jaw-dropping marquetry interior-like something out of the Empire State Building-was crafted by Achille Capocci in 1946. The imposing exterior Univers-face steel logo on custard-coloured vitrolite panels makes for maximum authenticity. Local heavies The Krays were firm fixtures during the 1960s. This is simply one of the greatest-and friendliest-eateries in the world. See Pellicci's and die!

Roggio Pellicci's Restaurant, Great Eastern Street EC2. RIP
Semi-classic: 'Formica tables with some Formica wall panelling, and possibly a 60's plastic shop sign, though the shop front is of a more recent aluminium type.' (Patrick Turland)

First Choice, Bethnal Green Road E2. RIP
Almost next to Pellicci's. The outside sign is maybe the best feature (alongside the proper caff tables and chairs) that and the fact the place seems to be staffed by Kosovan lap dancers.

Copper Grill, Eldon Street EC2. RIP Jun 04
This timewarp caff is set in an unlikely road behind Liverpool Street. The large amount of wood booth seating is inspirational. Other key features include: rosewood tables; Lapidus beanpole rails; good window lights; great yellow outside sign (Golden Egg-style) and, better yet, a large downstairs basement with caff-murals adorning the back alcoves.

Piccolo, Eldon Street EC2. RIP
Next door to the Copper Grill, this narrow cafe has an unusual basement with classic chalet-style decor throughout and great purple-patterned Formica table-tops. Both upstairs and downstairs sections retain the original Swiss light fittings.

Dino's, Commercial Street E1.
Good old Italian survivor from the days when this area was rife with Dino family cafes. Good, rangy seating and a neat dumb waiter. Demand a serving of Dino's excellent 'specialist chips'-which for some reason you have to know to specifically ask for.

Vernasca, Wentworth Street E1. RIP
Hard to find behind the bag stalls of Petticoat Lane, inside, the dark sensurround rosewood Formica gleams under the lamps. Serried ranks of green booths and neat little plum-coloured cup and saucer sets

Rosa's, Hanbury Street E1. RIP
Bud Flanagan once lived above the shop but this is now a pleasant left-alone relic selling awesomely cheap food and featuring a vaudeville shrine in one corner and signed Gilbert and George ephemera in the other. (It's also now their local after the closure of the Market Cafe near their home on Fournier Street.)

City Corner, Midddlesex Street EC1.
Good looking cafe with compact sea-green leatherette booths, a lovely back-wall mosaic and nice menus in the window. Terrible prices and consistently grim service though. Be warned.

Ponti's, Bishopsgate EC2. NEW
'Despite being one of the Ponti's chain, this seems to be their unreconstructed branch (possibly the first one opened?). Open 24 hours. Has some internal modernisation but an old style feel with green Formica topped tables and red leatherette booth seating. Almost a classic...' (Patrick Turland)

Farina's, Leather Lane EC1. RIP
A Classic Cafes' favourite for nigh on fifteen years. Farina's has a fine large dark interior with green marbleised tables, green metal-legged tables, dozens of brown leatherette chairs, duo-tile flooring, slatted ceiling, Formica panels throughout, a mystery basement stairwell with 'municipal' ironwork railings, Airtexed walls, a 50s clock, sunken-spot lighting, a dumb water and excellent plain white cup and saucer sets. A classic of its kind in the heart of Little Italy.

Luigi's, Roseberry Avenue EC1. NEW
Once used for a Pulp LP shoot, this little gem has a classic Univers sign, a couple of fine booths and some stool seats. A hideaway basement (down a tiny stairwell hidden behind the counter) is decked out in two-tone fake-wood Formica. Always rammed with postmen from the local Mount Pleasant sorting office: "very small, wedge-shaped and has space for only two tables (red Formica) and hard wooden benches), plus a red Formica perch-area with one surviving 1960s stool. The walls are pale brown wood-effect Formica with a dark real-wood strip separating the colours... mosaic floor... lots of switches and an ornate balustrade round the steps to the basement... complete with paintstripper tea!" (Robert Wyburn)

Golden Fish, Farringdon Road EC1.
Eleonora Ruocco's cosy familial Italian cafe, opposite Mount Pleasant post office is also half of a fish and chip shop. The dainty interior, with its ranks of 1940s rosewood booths with metal arms (very like those in The Copper Grill), is one of the loveliest in London. The lone antique hatstand by the door always brings a lump to the throat.

Muratori, Farringdon Road EC1.
Set up by Parma Italians in the 1960s, this all-brown cafe retains superb panels throughout, top-notch Formica wood veneer tables and some high-backed booths for good measure. Family-run, and always overrun with gangs of howling cabbies, manageress Giuliana Muratori reckons there's one vital ingredient for a successful caff, "Noise!"

Quality Chop House, Farringdon Road EC1.
Not a caff, but a perfect example of a chop house established in the late 1800s as a "progressive working class caterer". Retains many original fittings including pews and etched windows inscribed with the legend "London's noted cup of tea".

Scotti's Snack Bar, Clerkenwell Green EC1.
An absolute gem surrounded by churches, fine industrial architecture and the myriad attractions of Little Italy. Great panel ceiling; fabulous grey op-art Formica wall panels; grade-A chairs; classic counters and 1950s shelving throughout; a mysterious stairway; attentive staff; fine lights; good clocks; kitsch parlour paintings; textured 1940s wallpaper; confection displaysall of human life is here.
Popular Cafe, Lever Street EC1.
Doubles as a basic Thai restaurant. Univers typeface over the old double-doorway; classic oval Pepsi sign outside; dark orange Formica tables; ratty red leatherette seating and fake wood wall panelling. Nice display of giant fork and spoon wall hangings too.

Barbican Grill, Whitecross Street EC1. RIP
Good dowdy sign and green booth-style seating in an excellent little enclave near Bunhill Fields cemetery.

Pingo Doce (formerly Rossetti), Old Street/Honduras Street EC1. RIP
Excellent, lurid orange and blue exterior with period font sign. Awnings. Booth interior and a touching window display of old Italian kitchen storage jars. (Sign & windows altered Aug 04)

Central Cafe, West Poultry Avenue EC1. RIP
Set inside one of the great meatmarket avenues, hidden under the awnings, this place is a symphony of beautiful yellowing tables and a wall-to-wall powder blue Formica. Chipped, grubby and perfect.

Beppes, West Smithfield EC1.
Nice booth seats, brilliant signage and a beaten copper counter. The tables are slightly altered but the locals relish this family-run place with its sense of Clerkenwell history and legendarily frosty service. Old man Beppe's journal is framed on the wall (with a picture of him as a young lad) but the power in the house is Mama with her signature house dish, steak and kidney pie.

Saints (formerly Butts), John Street EC1. RIP
Unremarkable exterior but a fine deep-brown furnished interior with chocolate coloured Formica tables, proper Thonet chairs and a mosaic floor built of large bright shards of tile

Gategrill, Aldersgate Street EC1. NEW
Close by Barbican tube this has an excellent modern sign in vivid red with a superb line graphic. The plain interior is enlivened by decent furniture and orange/brown 70s tiling in the doorway.

Castle, Paul Street EC2. RIP
Built into the base of a derelict three-storey building, this cafe features stool seating looking out onto the street, old-school shelving and a warm and friendly Italian family behind the counter.

Castle Snack Bar, Tabernacle Street EC2 RIP
"Great unassuming place. In the area of gentrifying cusp land around the City Road, Old Street whatever you call that. I don't know that area very well. Lovely cuppa, only 45p. Simple stools, and a little lower shelf for storing revolvers and buried treasure... " (Russell Davies) "The cafe's closed, and the interior has been ripped-out. The manageress of the nearby, similarly styled Castle in Paul St said that she thought their lease had expired." Patrick Turland)

Ferrari's, St Andrews Hill EC4. NEW
Semi-classic: 'Tiny - three small tables only, but packed with atmosphere and all the right ingredients. Good prices, friendly service, great decor. Well worth a visit.' (Paul Woods)

Ferrari's, Lea Bridge Road E17.
A chequer-board floor, endless brown booths and plenty of chrome stool bar seating at the counter.

L Rodi, Blackhorse Lane E17. NEW
Splendid old caff that's been with the same family since 1925-and dates back even earlier. The frontage is somewhat altered (thought the excellent 'L. Rodi Light Refreshment' sign is untouched) but the interior is phenomenal. The front room is a fantasy of marble-mint Formica set under sparkling vitrolite; chrome edged tables are packed tight opposite an original counter which has a huge 1930s extractor pipe hovering over the tea boiler and a giant old English Electric fridge at the back; the upper walls are lined with authentic 1950s tobacco posters. The back room is a veritable caff museum: lined with emerald and off-white tiles; Victorian marble tables; a working grandfather clock that still chimes the hours; black-lacquer bentwood coathangers; framed menus from the past and beaten-silver signs embossed with the words 'Teas' and 'Suppers'. There used to be three other branches in Islington and Westminster and-as the display of black and white snaps of Rodi's through the ages shows-the place has barely changed in a century. Overwhelming. Emotional. Essential.

L Randolfi's, Roman Road E3. RIP
A sandwich-only caff with strange early 70s signage, marble Victorian tables, magnificently worn Thonet chairs, Vitrolite-panel ceilings, all-original cabinet shelving behind the counter and a brilliant shack-like rear-section with painted wood walls, 'breakfast-bar' and a dozen 1950s counter stools. Some original neon strip-lighting remains over the counter and ice creams are still served from the front hatch on the street. (The frontage used to be a classic Pellicci-style Vitrolite job until a car accident necessitated a complete rebuild).

Obertelli's Eating House, Leadenhall Market, EC3. NEW
"There's less room for eating downstairs, just stools or the tables outside. But upstairs is a land that time forgot. Lots of white tiles and blokes focused on eating. A good, dedicated atmosphere. The Leadenhall Market is an interesting area. A bit of quaintness loitering in the high-tech city. It's so clean and Disney-like that it sometimes look less authentic than it is. They've shot some Harry Potter here, and I can imagine a bunch of other movies. Just around the corner is the Regis Snack Bar which also looks worth a visit..." (Russell Davies)

Regis Snack Bar, Leadenhall Place EC3.
The fine little 1950s frontage of this cafe sits in the shadow of the Lloyd's building adjacent to the side of Leadenhall Market. Inside, it's counter stools all round, fake beams on the ceiling and relentless bonhomie from the three serving guys.

Star Cafe, Whitechapel Road E1. RIP
Acres of proper 1970s leatherette booth seating and a general air of large-scale Wimpy styling remain in this old cafe-situated opposite the hospital where the remains of Elephant Man are kept.

Pubali, Commercial Road E14. RIP
Part normal fry cafe, part basic Indian restaurant, this is one of the few London caffs to be protected by English Heritage-the frontage can't be altered since it's technically part of the listed building next door. The characterful gothic undertakers a few doors down used to keep their overspill coffins in the basement here.

Roman Fish Bar, Roman Road E2.
Good looking chippy with powder blue Formica counter and odd orange high-back pew booths. Nice fish motif on the signage.

Don's, Lower Clapton Road E5. RIP
Almost as turbid as the Clapton Ponds it stands next to, with its creaky double-fronted exterior and unremitting drab decor, this caff seems to be perpetually on its last legs. Orders are written in felt-tip pen on an ancient piece of plastic on the counter which is then wiped clean. Says caff classicist J. Hourrigan: "The cafe's run by the eponymous Don and his ancient Italian siblings in their 80s (all of whom came from Lucca in the 1930s). They've been there all their lives. It sits just around the corner from where Harold Pinter was born. Don's was once a stables. Wooden interior, high ceilings, never full! It's open til 2.00 pm most days. Other fans rave about the "wonderful physical space and decor, fine food and music... oh, the music!" Don's chirpy whistling (and the accompanying polka music) is a unique selling point along with the big fat caff cat: "Places like Don's offer something you can't get in your quotidian Costa Coffee: character. Okay, the food isn't up to the ludicrously high standard of Stateside equivalents like Tom's Restaurant in Brooklyn, but it's run by two tiny little fellas, both about 75 years old, who make great tea to a non-stop soundtrack of 1940s French accordion music. There's something terribly classy about it, even taking into account the nicotine-stained walls, ratty furniture and faintly grubby atmosphere."

Cafe, Redchurch Street E2. RIP
Hidden in what once must have been a thriving little community on the edge of Hoxton (and close by the Spitalfields market) this little find is very similar to the old Tea Rooms as was. Blue painted wooden exterior, Helvetica sign, net curtains and inside an amazing worn old wallpaper patterned interior looking onto a parlour full of old Formica tables, worn Lino flooring and a proper caff counter. A great find which can't be long for this word in an area that is fast being Loft-ed street by street.

Poppins, Poppins Court EC4. NEW
Tucked away in an alleyway just off Fleet Street near Ludgate Circus, this is a long-standing Fleet Street institution, no doubt once frequented by grizzled hacks and assorted print workers. The old seats and tables have sadly been replaced, but there are some compensating nostalgic features such as attractive (probably original) wood panelling, mirrors and coathooks. And it does have a quintessential drabness and melancholy only a stone's throw from the brash saturation of Starbucks' on Fleet Street itself. Not quite a classic but with all the tragic closures taking place you have to be grateful for small mercies. (RIchard Lister)

Mandy's, Mare Street E8. RIP
Wretched exterior sign but the inside seems suitably down-at-heel. Useful to know about if you're trawling galleries and exhibitions in the area.

Andrew's, Hackney Road E2. RIP
'An austere plain-style cafe, with what looks like an original wooden blue-painted fascia/signboard with white lettering. Wooden chairs with leatherette seat covering, wooden Formica-topped tables, pinewood-effect wall panelling. There's a Formica-topped counter, and old-style hot-water dispenser. The brown and dun floor tiles, and cream and brown-mottled lino look original. The blue-painted wooden shelves are an interesting feature. Unfortunately, judging by the sparse lunchtime trade, this cafe looks like it's on a downward slide to extinction.' (Patrick Turland)

Cafe Bliss, Dalston Road E8. NEW
Most certainly a prime sight, though the old sign [a large orange 60s panel saying CAFE] was better. This place has been taken over but the nice interior survives and makes for a great local cafe experience. The dark emerald Formica table tops and polished leatherette booths score highly.

George's, Leytonstone High St E11. NEW
Disgusting modern aluminium frame-window frontage but the grey op-art Formica table check patterning is good, along with the dark plum panels and off-white lumpy walls hung with crap celebrity autographs [Cilla, Beadle, Tarrant etc.] Incredibly cheap too: £1.00 for a mug of tea and bacon sandwich as of July 2000! Surely some kind of record for the London area? Leytonstone centre is worth a lookover if only for the monumental 1940s library (with its breathtaking stone foyer) and the spooky church graveyard opposite (full of soiled, yowling alkies... if you like that sort of thing).

Percy Ingle, Leytonstone High Street E11 NEW
With its original 1950s sineage the Ingle chain in the East End is a pleasant choice for cakes and pastries. There's too much orange plastic, wholly contravening Classic Cafes' criteria. (seating since altered) but we like the Ingle approach and can just about forgive their recalcitrance on the modular seating front. The E11 branch has by far the best outlook and seems to retain an original orange teapot logo. One for the trainspotters.

Pie Crust Cafe, 273 High Street E15 NEW
A mysterious and grizzly little caff perched on the main road opposite the Carpenters Rd turning, the Pie Crust looks as though it has just narrowly survived a Luftwaffe attack. Only the hearty sign and ratty net curtains suggest an interior of any merit; but merit it certainly has: Formica refectory tables; 40s scout-hut seating in oxblood leatherette; vintage ceiling fans; two plastic embossed Pie Crust wall menus overflowing with cheap eats (Rough Guide recommended - egg chips & beans £2.00); large Thai exotica murals... and a rear table doubling as a T-shirt stall! Oh yes, this is the life. Vast portions. Inexplicably happy staff. Maximum Moribundia.


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